CSA Week 13: Spicing it Up

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By Kelli Swensen, Dietetics Student, Sargent College

A word to describe this week’s CSA box is, indisputably, vibrant. See for yourself:

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So what’s in the box?
The wonderful thing about the CSA box is that it contains all local produce. Every Monday, anyone who is signed up to receive that week’s CSA receives an email with a list of what will be in the box. However, the harvest cannot be guaranteed and sometimes the farmers have to substitute another fruit or vegetable if the originally planned product is not available. Such a case happened this week.

What was supposed to be in the box:  1 seeded Watermelon, 2 lbs Peaches, 6 ears Sweet Corn, 2 lbs. Tomatoes, 2 Tomatillos, 3 Onions, 6 Mariachi Hot Peppers, 1 lb. beans

What ended up being in our box: 1 seeded Watermelon, 2 lbs. Tomatoes, 3 Mariachi Hot Peppers, 3 Sweet Peppers, Potatoes, and Beets

Still just as fresh and delicious as the projected contents!

Throughout the summer, many of the CSA boxes have contained tomatoes. Although having a constant supply of tomatoes is convenient since they are so versatile in recipes, it can be hard to use them all up before they become over-ripe and moldy. Sargent Choice Nutrition Center’s Jennifer Culbert, RD, gave me a great handout with tips on storing ripe tomatoes to increase shelf life:

  • General Storage Tip: Always store at room temperature in a fairly shady area of you kitchen.
  • Tip to Prolong Shelf Life: Store a ripe tomato with its stem end facing down. This trick should give you up to an extra week before the tomato starts going bad.

Corn, watermelon, peaches, tomatoes. These are all pretty common vegetables and fruits that I’m sure you already have recipes for (need ideas? check out our previous CSA posts HERE or check out our Recipes page). But what about tomatillos and mariachi peppers? What do they taste like and how can you incorporate them into a recipe? Keep reading to find out!

Tomatillos: Although used as a vegetable, tomatillos are part of the tomato family and are botanically fruits. They are usually green or yellow, resembling unripe tomatoes, and have thin, light brown husks that protect the flesh. Like tomatoes, tomatillos are slightly acidic, but have a more lemony flavor. When preparing tomatillos, be sure to remove the husk and then wash the skin with soap and water to get rid of any residue left over from the husk.

Knowing they have a slight lemon flavor, I immediately decided to find a salsa recipe to use them in. Known for his use of less-popular fruits and vegetables, Michael Natkin’s blog Herbivoracious (check out our review of his blog HERE) was the first place I turned to, and I was far from disappointed. This salsa recipe not only incorporates both spicy and sweet flavors, but it is also completely vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free, making it a perfect appetizer to serve to a large crowd of people along with some homemade baked tortilla chips!

Smoked Pineapple and Tomatillo Salsa (original recipe HERE)
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free / Makes about 2 cups

  • 1 cup hickory or mesquite wood chips
  • 1 3/4 cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • 4 small tomatillos, peeled and halved
  • 3 green onions, ends removed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • Chile de arbol or cayenne powder
  1. Put the wood chips in a medium-sized saucepan that you don’t mind discoloring. Place a folding steamer basket on top of the wood chips, and put the pineapple chunks on it. Put the lid on the pot, and place it on high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Carefully taste a piece of pineapple and confirm that it has a good level of smoke. If not, cook for another couple of minutes.
  2. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Put the tomatillos and green onions in (with no oil) and cook, turning occasionally, until they start to darken in spots, about 5 minutes.
  3. Put the smoked pineapple, tomatillos, green onions, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, agave nectar, and a pinch of chile de arbol in a mini-food processor. Process until it forms a coarse puree. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve at room temperature for best flavor. This salsa will keep for at least 3 days in the refrigerator.

CIMG2658Mariachi Hot Peppers: Cooked or raw, mariachi hot peppers are a great addition to salsas, veggie platters, and burritos. Lower pungency (not as hot) as other peppers, they still pack in plenty of spice, but with a fruity undertone that really sets it apart from other kinds of peppers. Although they turn red when they are fully ripe, mariachi peppers can be eaten when they are still yellow without any loss of flavor or heat.

As a relatively new owner of a small apartment kitchen without a dining plan, I’ve been mastering the art of making meals that are not only budget-friendly, but ones that require very little counter space to prepare and very few dishes to wash. Stuffed peppers is an ideal meal for a small kitchen and easy to make for just yourself or for a large crowd of people. Although bell peppers are the most common peppers for stuffing, mariachi peppers with their fruity undertones are a delicious substitution! Stuffed peppers, aside from being affordable and low-maintenance, are also completely customizable. Below is a rough guideline of how I prepare stuffed peppers, but it’s really up to you as to what ingredients you want to use.

1. Preheat oven to 400 F

2. Wash pepper before cutting in half. Scoop out the seeds in each half.

3. Place on a cookie sheet and then roast in oven while you prepare the filling (usually about 5-8 minutes)

4. In a bowl, combine pre-cooked quinoa, black beans, corn, chopped broccoli, and a sprinkle of low-fat shredded cheese

5. Carefully remove cookie sheet from oven. Fill each half with filling then return peppers to oven. Cook for another 15-20minutes, until the peppers are tender.

Serving Idea: for added flavor and spice, serve your stuffed peppers with the smoked pineapple and tomatillo salsa recipe from above

One Comment

Ayfiel posted on January 31, 2012 at 1:07 am

Very nice Post. A very complete and orderly guidance to cook. Very helpful for readers who want to try making granola at home. thank you
Honey Joys

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